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Global cartel enforcement

Antitrust authorities around the world continued to focus on tackling national and international cartels in 2019, with many jurisdictions showing an appreciable upturn in the level of fines compared to those imposed in 2018.

The European Commission (EC) once again topped the global leader board, with fines totalling USD1.6bn (up by 74% from 2018). The U.S., Japan, Germany, Italy and France also saw significant increases in the level of fines imposed in 2018, while a number of authorities with a reputation for aggressive enforcement, including South Korea and Brazil, saw a marked drop in their fine totals.

But behind the numbers sit several major questions, the answers to which may impact international cartel enforcement in the future:

  • Will the ever-increasing spread of private damages actions, including a wave of claimant actions in Europe following on from the EC’s Trucks and Forex decisions, ultimately make leniency an unattractive proposition?
  • Does the broad use of settlement agreements, and the lower fines they deliver, reduce the need for an ex ante leniency strategy?  
  • Will there be a political will to focus in the future more on domestic cartels rather than international cartels?  

“The digital economy will continue to dominate the global antitrust debate. Regulatory scrutiny of the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms in business practices is expected to increase, while antitrust authorities continue to consider whether reform of existing laws is necessary to deal with the challenging issues raised by increasing digitalisation.” Philip Mansfield , Partner, Global antitrust group

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Global cartel enforcement report 2020

Covering calendar year 2019

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